922 Hajj pilgrims succumb to intense heat in KSA

The deceased include 600 Egyptians, 60 Jordanians and 9 Pakistanis. Pak religious ministry urges masses to disregard rumours about Hajj pilgrims

MAKKAH, ISLAMABAD   -   At least 922 Hajj pilgrims died in the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia due to the country’s soaring temperatures in the past few days.

According to the total figure that came from the hospital morgue in Makkah’s Al Muaisem neighbourhood, at least 900 pilgrims died during the Hajj pilgrimage this year due to the intense heat.

However, the total number of deaths reported by multiple countries so far brought the tally to 922.

Two Arab diplomats, coordinating their countries’ responses, revealed that among the pilgrims who died, 600 were Egyptians, most of whom succumbed to heat-related illnesses. “All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat”, except for one who sustained fatal injuries during a minor crowd crush, one of the diplomats said.

The diplomats maintained that at least 60 Jordanians also died, adding to the official tally of 41 given earlier on Tuesday by Amman. Friends and family searched for missing Hajj pilgrims on Wednesday as the death toll at the annual rituals, which were carried out in scorching heat, surged past 900.

Relatives scoured hospitals and pleaded online for news, fearing the worst after temperatures hit 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, on Monday.

About 1.8 million people from all over the world, many old and infirm, took part in the days-long, mostly outdoor pilgrimage, held this year during the oven-like Saudi summer.

Facebook and other social media networks have been flooded with pictures of the missing and requests for information.

Meanwhile, post-Hajjj flight operation to bring back over 86000 Pakistani Hujjaj under government scheme from Saudi Arabia will begin today (Thursday).

The Hujjaj will be provided five liter Zamzam water at the airport.The flight operation will culminate on 20th of next month.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs on Wednesday urged the masses to disregard rumours about Hajj pilgrims and verify information from credible sources before sharing it on social media platforms.

The statement came in response to various reports and videos that purportedly showed some Pakistani pilgrims had been left stranded while performing rituals in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Abdul Wahab Soomro, Director-General of the Pakistan Hajj Mission (PHM), said the videos shared online were “baseless” and their authenticity could not be confirmed.

“The PHM relies on information provided by the Saudi government, which is later verified by the mission itself,” the official said in a statement.

“As of 4 PM on June 18, a total of 9 deaths of Pakistanis had occurred in Mashair, with 4 in Mina, 3 in Arafat, and 2 in Muzdalifah,” he said, adding that this year’s Hajj was challenging due to extreme heat and harsh weather conditions, with temperatures reaching 50°C.

Soomro emphasized the mission received reports of deaths and verified them before taking any action.

“The Saudi government has set up a system for burials and funeral prayers in Haramain, and arrangements are also made to send the dead body of a pilgrim to Pakistan if the heirs demand it,” he added.

Pilgrims pelted the Jamarat and performed the Farewell Tawaf on Tuesday, bringing this year’s Hajj to a close.

Pakistan had a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which more than 70,000 people performed the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest used private tour operators.

The South Asian country will begin its post-Hajj flight operation on Thursday to bring local pilgrims back home.